MOVIE REVIEW: Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo show the power of great love in She's Dating the Gangster

Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo give their own take of Kenji and Athena in movie version of She’s Dating the Gangster.



Love may be a matter of destiny, but it is the choices one makes in the face of adversity that will make or break it.

An age-old and slightly terrifying grown-up wisdom is planted at the heart of the screen adaptation of She’s Dating the Gangster, Star Cinema’s new take on the ups and downs of juvenile love and the repercussions that may come from the decisions one makes at a young age.

Kenneth Delos Reyes (Daniel Padilla) hates his father Kenji (Richard Gomez) who is never around that much. One day, however, he finds himself scrambling to Legazpi City in the Bicol region hoping that his father is among the survivors of a plane crash.

Tagging along the trip is Kelay (Kathryn Bernardo), a girl he met at the airport who insists on bringing Kenji to her dying aunt whom she claims was Kenji’s “great love.” As they travel to the province, Kelay tells him the love story of Kenji and Athena.

Back in the '90s, campus heartthrob and resident “gangster” Kenji (also played by Daniel) guilts Kelay’s aunt Athena Dizon (also played by Kathryn) into staging a fake romance with him to provoke jealousy and remorse in his ex-girlfriend Abigail (Sofia Andres).

This was the price Athena had to pay for playing a wicked prank on him. The scheme seemed to be working until Kenji and Athena find themselves falling for each other. Fate, however, deals them a fatal blow, forcing them to make a decision that will alter their relationship forever.

The movie is based on the novellete of the same title by Bianca Bernardino but the adaptation almost ends there as the producers have taken great liberties with the original form of the text, altering the plot, introducing new characters and tweaking the personas of the characters themselves.

SDTG director Cathy Garcia-Molina and screenwriter Carmi Raymundo deviated from the tragic end of the novel to make it more palatable to the general audience—and perhaps more profitable for Star Cinema.

Direk Cathy’s diversion from the darkness of the novelette did enable the movie to deliver its fair share of kilig moments and romantic clichés expected from a romantic movie as love blooms between Athena and Kenji.

Indeed, the movie cements the status of the Kathryn Bernardo-Daniel Padilla pairing as a love team to reckon with.

Kathryn Bernardo’s Athena Dizon is a more fragile and down-to earth version of the Athena in the novel who is cheeky and worldly. Daniel Padilla’s Kenji is a more faithful portrayal of the novelette’s hero. As Kenneth, his dramatic ability is brought to the fore in the confrontation scenes and touching moments with his father.

The chemistry between Daniel and Kathryn is amazing.

But being also a dramatic movie, the plot has to eventually cross over to the dark side, and this where the film begins to suffer from one unbelievable plot twist to another until there is nothing left to do but to let it end the way so many cut and dried soap operas do.

Direk Cathy must have wanted to explore the tragic side of Athena and Kenji’s story more as they made the harder and the nobler decision that they deemed suitable for the situation. As a filmmaker, she might have wanted to make it a well-rounded movie about loss and regret, but felt the pressure to stay the course and keep the lightheartedness and just finish the movie with forced sacrifice, love and acceptance.

She’s Dating the Gangster is a charming and entertaining romp made for teenagers, many of whom believe that love—no, great love—triumphs in the end.

But filmmakers should not underestimate the intelligence of youngsters and should be brave enough to explore the deeper and, yes, the darker side of love.

Young love has always been a fertile ground for drama, having the potential to show how naiveté can be charming and dangerous at the same time, or how young people in love can both be brave and cowardly in fighting for what is theirs.



Ed's Note: The "PEP Review" section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial staff.

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